Many people were quick to award President Trump the Nobel Peace Prize for his photo-op with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in June. Now it is evident that, at best, he merely deserves a participation trophy. Instead, the next Nobel Prize should be awarded to the Parkland students.
While it’s a positive thing that Trump met with Kim, as opposed to trading insults, nothing substantial regarding denuclearization was accomplished. The signed document was very vague and had no specifics as to compliance. The prior deals with North Korea reached by previous presidential administrations had more detail regarding compliance and inspections. Recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump admitted that there was no timeline on denuclearization by North Korea. It was also revealed recently that satellite images showed that North Korea was making rapid improvements to the infrastructure at a nuclear research facility and was working to conceal portions of its nuclear program. There were reports that North Korea is working on a submarine capable of launching nuclear missile. Two weeks ago, North Korea accused the United States of “gangster-like” denuclearization demands and Kim failed to meet with Pompeo, choosing to visit a potato farm instead. Last week it was reported that North Korea is building new long-range missiles.
In June, Trump’s crowds at his rallies started chanting “Nobel, Nobel” to Trump’s delight, and House Republicans sent a letter to the Nobel Committee arguing that Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize for his dialogue with North Korea. Conservative media outlets and pundits hailed his alleged brilliance in his diplomacy. Those are the same people who criticized President Obama for appeasing dictators by negotiating with Iran and Cuba.
However, awarding the Nobel Prize to Trump would be premature, since we need to see what the results of the summit really were. Was this more like Nixon going to China or more like Neville Chamberlain appeasing Adolf Hitler? Time will tell. Likewise, awarding the Nobel Prize to President Obama in 2009 was premature, since he hadn’t accomplished anything significant at that time in his presidency.
Trump should be disqualified for the Nobel Peace Prize because of his repudiation of the Iran Nuclear deal, which jeopardizes the safety of the Middle East. In the aftermath of Trump’s decision, there were a series of rocket exchanges between Israel and Hamas which didn’t get a lot of media attention. The Iran accord wasn’t perfect, but it was preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb and the Iranians were complying with the agreement. Now Trump is in a Twitter war of words with Iran’s leaders and imposed new sanctions.
In addition, Trump’s recent criticism of U.S. allies and NATO, as well as his “who’s your daddy? Vladdy.” performance in Helsinki next to Vladimir Putin should disqualify him for the Nobel as well.
In contrast to Trump, the Parkland students made something positive out of a horrible tragedy. Their voices were heard by the world during their March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. and around the country that drew millions of people. They traveled to Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. to advocate for gun control measures. Their actions led to Florida passing a more restrictive gun control statute. New Jersey followed suit in June. After decades of thoughts and prayers, meaningless talk and promises, and inept inaction by politicians due to fear of the NRA, there is now some realistic hope that things might change regarding gun control at the state and national level.
In June, the Parkland students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School kicked off a national “Road to Change” bus tour at a rally in Chicago to promote their agenda of making schools safer and preventing gun violence. They are specifically aiming to get young people to register to vote in the November midterms. Last weekend, their nationwide tour ended in Newtown, Connecticut.
These students are following the lead of Malala Yousafzai who was a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize at age 17 in 2014 for her activism for the education of girls in Pakistan.
There is a Change.org petition and a Twitter campaign urging the nomination of Parkland Students for the Nobel Peace Prize.
It takes courage to do what the Parkland students have done. They are taking on powerful institutions, most notably the National Rifle Association. They have been mocked by many conservatives. There was a fake news campaign claiming that David Hogg was a crisis actor who actually lived in California. More fake news came when a doctored photo allegedly showed Emma Gonzalez ripping up the Constitution, when in fact she was ripping up a gun range target. Has-been rock star Ted Nugent called the Parkland students liars and soulless. Conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham mocked Hogg for “whining” about not getting into certain colleges that he had applied to. Alex Jones of Info Wars described the March for Our Lives Rally as a Hitler Youth invasion and called Hogg the chief propagandist. Many conservatives have alleged that the Parkland students are just pawns of liberal organizations and have falsely claimed that their movement is being bankrolled by liberal billionaire George Soros.
Two of the Parkland students, David Hogg and Cameron Kasky, were the targets of “swatting” pranks, where fake 911 calls were made to police, who went to their homes to investigate what turned out to be false claims of gun incidents. Both Hogg and Kasky have claimed that they have received online death threats.
These threats and verbal assaults on the Parkland student activists led one of the shooting victim’s parents, Fred Guttenberg, to call on President Trump to publicly demand that those threats stop.
It would have been a natural reaction for the Parkland students to mourn and grieve privately and to turn inward. They could have taken vacations, hung out with friends at the beach, and focused on going to college in the fall. Instead, they have put themselves out there and dedicated their lives to changing how society views gun violence and how it can be prevented. That’s a lot of responsibilities for teenagers to take on. They should be honored for it.
Larry Atkins is the author of Skewed: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Media Bias (Prometheus Books). He teaches Journalism at Temple University and Arcadia University. Twitter: @larryatkins4